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Dare County Schools lays out options for reopening, decision to come Monday

Dare County Schools announced July 15 their breakdown of options for the reopening of schools, which will be presented to the Board of Education on Monday, July 20 at 2 p.m.

The public is welcome to listen in to the meeting by following the link posted on the main page of the DCS website at www.daretolearn.org. Due to the “special” meeting status, there will be no public comment period.

In an attempt to gauge parent’s thoughts on what school should look like in the fall, DCS released a survey from July 7 through 10 asking which plan option was preferred. The results were included in Wednesday’s update from Superintendent John Farrelly.

Five hundred and fourteen staff members, 76% of which were teachers, participated in the survey; 23% of teachers who responded preferred to teach virtually. As for the “Plan B” options, the majority of staff respondents were torn between two: Plan A, which was K-8 on site five days per week with 7-12 remote day, and Plan B, which was to have K-12 alternate days in attending in-person and virtually.

As for parent respondents, 1,751 participated, with 29% wanting virtual learning for their child/children. As for Plan B options, roughly 36% of parents favored Plan A, and about 35% favored Plan B (as previously mentioned). 27% preferred Plan C, which had K-12 alternate weeks between virtual learning and in-person education. 55% of elementary parents surveyed preferred their child not to be required to wear a face covering.

Farrelly noted in his update email to the school community that he will be presenting five reopening options to the Board of Education on Monday afternoon, as well as a virtual school program and guidebook.  “With approval, the virtual school registration process will begin the next day,” he wrote.

The five options to be presented are as follows:

Option 1:

  • Virtual learning for the first semester for those in K-12.
  • Preschool attends school every other day.
  • Grades K-6 attend attends school on-site five days per week (spread out among the campuses depending on student numbers).
  • Grades 7-12 remote learning (with potential to schedule additional instructional support on-site).
  • Grades 7-12 special populations (EC, 504, ESL) have option of attending daily.

Option 2:

  • Virtual learning option for the first semester for anyone in K-12.
  • Preschool attends every other day.
  • PK-12 attends onsite in A/B cohorts on alternating days each week/Remote learning on off-site days:
    • Cohort A (half the alphabet) attends Monday/Tuesday and are remote Thursday/Friday, Wednesday is remote for all (deep cleanse of buildings), Cohort B (the other half of the alphabet) attends Thursday/Friday and are remote Monday/Tuesday.
    • Students in the same immediate family will be grouped in the same cohort as much as possible.
  • Special populations (EC,504, ESL) have the option of attending daily.

Option 3:

  • Virtual learning option for the first semester for anyone in K-12.
  • Preschool attends every other day.
  • K-12 attends onsite in A/B cohorts on alternating weeks. Remote learning on off-site weeks.
  • Cohort A attends on-site weeks 1,3,5 and remote weeks 2,4,6.
  • Cohort B is on-site weeks 2,4,6 and remote weeks 1,3,5.
  • Students in the same immediate family will be grouped in the same cohort as much as possible.
  • Special populations (EC,504, ESL) have the option of attending daily.

Option 4:

  • Virtual learning option for the first semester for anyone in K-12.
  • PK-12 begins the year in remote instruction until a specified date (Ex. September 1, September 15, October 1). This concept provides time to see if local COVID-19 related data and mitigation efforts improve.
  • PK-12 then transitions out of remote to a plan above (DCS 1, 2 or 3)

Option 5:

  • The entire school system is remote for the first semester or until a governor mandate to move to Plan A.

As for the maximum number of students DCS is estimating can fit in a classroom while social distancing, digital communications director Keith Parker said the district is looking at 12. “That number is true for the majority of our classrooms,” Parker noted. Where some classrooms may have the capacity to fit more and some less, he said 12 students in most classrooms would fit the criteria of social distancing and maintaining 6-ft. of distance.

In terms of staffing, Parker said it all depends on the decision that comes out of Monday’s meeting with the board. “Each option has variables and is based on how many students enroll in virtual school,” he noted. Parked added that staffing for whatever option is chosen will have to be split amongst those who will teach virtually and those that teach in-person.

Large spaces, such as gyms, auditoriums and cafeterias will most likely house classes, but Parker said the district is still waiting for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to okay the use of those spaces.

Specifically regarding Option 2, the noted deep cleaning of the building mid-week would be in addition to the regular cleaning schedule that each building’s custodial crew will maintain. Sanitation of all classrooms and used spaces will take place daily.

As for laboratories and other hands-on learning, Parker noted that if students are meeting in-person, each teacher will need to modify their laboratory standards and account for social distancing. Anything used during that lab period, such as flasks, microscopes, computers and the like, would need to be sanitized before and after each group enters or leaves the area.

Online labs are available to students who choose to learn virtually. Web-run simulations will be made accessible and utilized.

Staff members and parents received another survey on July 15 asking whether participants would like a virtual option, and if not, they to rank their preferred options (listed above) 1-5.

“I will provide this data to the BOE on Monday and share our entire presentation with stakeholders following the board meeting. In addition to the comprehensive presentation, the virtual school guidebook and application will be released,” Farrelly’s email stated.

DCS will release several videos over the next two weeks related to bus procedures, dally temperature checks/health screenings, revised staff responsibilities, social distancing structures, breakfast/lunch in classrooms, a COVID-19 decision tree chart, best practices while teaching with social distancing and operational guides.

​“​The strains of this pandemic are many. I can assure you that we have spent countless hours considering all options and have had many sleepless nights trying to consider how best to move forward,” stated Farrelly. “Thank you for your support and partnership. We have a very talented group of district administrators who have collaborated on decision making throughout this process and considered stakeholder input along the way.”

For those who have not taken the survey, the link will be open until July 20 at noon and may be found on the Dare County Schools website at daretolearn.org or directly by clicking here.

READ ABOUT MORE SCHOOL NEWS HERE.

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